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USA Tourism: Obama’s National Travel and Tourism Strategy (NTTS)

The recent Vouchercloud USA Travel and Tourism Report outlines President Obama’s National Travel and Tourism Strategy (NTTS) to increase America’s desirability to tourists and make the US more competitive in the global tourism market.

The initiative was motivated by the US losing 30% of their market share of the global travel spend in 2000 to 2010. Despite over 8 million more people arriving in the US during that time, the US cornered only 11% of the worldwide travel income versus 17% in the previous decade. This cost their economy $590 billion and impacted heavily on job creation – it is estimated that every additional 65 international visitors to the country supports an additional tourism-related job.

Tourism is a key driver of economic wealth for some destinations and without tourism some destinations would suffer badly to survive, therefore, it is normally well planned out and where strategies are devised around it. To have a tourist travel to and stay in your destination for leisure or business purposes is important but to obtain repeat visits takes a lot of strategic thinking and well-planned marketing, and often it requires a huge presidential boost.

The US was seen as less attractive to tourists than destinations in emerging markets like Eastern Europe, South America and Asia. Their lack of a promotional body did nothing to convince travellers that the US could offer anything new to visitors. Most developed countries had a national destination marketing organization (or DMO), which the US did not until 2012 when the Brand USA marketing coalition was created following on from the Travel Promotion Act in 2010. It owns the website where they launched their first promotional campaign in Canada, Mexico and the UK.

As a direct result of the presidential strategy to boost tourism and travel economy Brand USA now has global offices working with more than 20 countries with plans to expand their reach to cover 40 countries. The goal is to attract 100 million international arrivals by 2021 which they hope will translate into a direct spend of $250 billion. In order to meet these goals, the strategy focusses on 5 areas:
• Travel promotion to the US, which includes co-ordinated efforts using the technology, data and information available from the US government, and with their sponsorship.
• Improve the travel experience into the US by, amongst other things, improving the visa and arrivals process.
• Improve the overall visitor experience in the US, in part by training and development of the tourism workforce
• Better coordination across government agencies and the establishment of a national travel and tourism office at the Department of Commerce.
• Research and measure results using best case practices and measurement tools to gather information about ongoing travel behaviors.

The Travel and Tourism Report is important as it shows that the initiative is already proving successful with a record number of 69.6 million visitors arriving in the US and spending an unprecedented $180.7 billion in 2013 – that’s up more than 9% on 2012 figures and almost 3% of America’s GDP. In addition, the international arrivals screening by the TSA has been expedited at more than 100 domestic airports. More countries have joined the visa waiver program and 42% more visas were issued than in 2010. This boost in tourist trade has created more jobs to service the tourist industry.

Brand USA is now a public-private partnership with over 300 travel industry partners contributing services and cash to support its promotions and initiatives to build marketing relationships with international travel suppliers. Brand USA also enables those parts of the USA which have smaller tourism budgets to reach international markets and for the US to promote tourism in emerging markets like China, Brazil and India.

The report also covers the details of future plans, like expanding the Visa Waiver Program to include more countries like Brazil and Poland, and to improve aviation infrastructure. This year, President Obama charged the Secretaries of Commerce and Homeland Security with producing action plans to improve the entry process that are unique to each airport. He says “We’re trying to make it easier for folks from around the world to come see America and spend money here.” There are also plans to train US Border Guards on the cultural differences of visitors to America and make them more welcoming to improve the States’ reputation around the world.-

Sept. 18/9/2014

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